Tom Brewitt: I didn’t have the bottle to knock on Klopp’s door at Liverpool
Tom Brewitt lived his childhood dream when he was asked to train with the Liverpool first team in 2015.
The defender, a lifelong Red, had dreamed of playing for the club, watching Steven Gerrard and co. win the Champions League and FA Cup. When he got called up for first-team training and the the first words he heard were encouraging ones from Kop idol Gerrard, it was the stuff of fantasy.
Six years later, he is now building his career on America’s West Coast with Tacoma Defiance, MLS club Seattle Sounders’ second team.
But his stateside adventures are a long way from his early years in Liverpool’s academy, whom he joined when he was 10 after being spotted playing for his local Saturday team.
“My main goal in life was to play for Liverpool’s first team,” Brewitt says. “It was all I ever wanted, so to sign for the club was amazing.”
His contemporaries at Melwood included Jordan Rossiter, Harry Wilson and Ryan Kent, all of whom he remains close to.
The 24-year-old, a former England youth international, worshipped Reds legends Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia and was called up from the U23s by then-manager Brendan Rodgers, where he found himself training alongside Gerrard.
“Stevie had been in my shoes as a young player at Liverpool, and he was the first one who came to speak to me that day,” Brewitt recalls. “He asked me about a game I’d played in a few days previously and was so welcoming, as were all the other lads.
“I was eight when Stevie lifted the Champions League trophy, so to be getting advice from him as a team-mate was an amazing experience.
“Michael Beale, who is now coaching at Rangers under Stevie, was my mentor – he gave me crucial advice on and off the pitch, and lessons in life.
“I also worked under great guys like Steve Cooper, Neil Critchley, Phil Roscoe and Gary Lewis, who I have remained in touch with. I know I can call on them for advice.”
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It was in April 2015 that Brewitt was called up to travel with the first team squad for an away game at Arsenal. He didn’t make the bench, but enthuses about his time under Rodgers.
Brewitt says: “I had a great relationship with him and his staff. They made me believe that I had every chance I could make it. It was a wonderful time in my career and I enjoyed every second of it.”
But things became more difficult when Rodgers was sacked eight months later and replaced by Jurgen Klopp. Brewitt didn’t get a chance under the effervescent German and was unable to maintain his place in the under-23s, with Tiago Ilori lining up at the back alongside Mamadou Sakho, who had been banished from the first team by Klopp.
“Michael Beale could see that I was frustrated and asked me what was wrong,” Brewitt says. “When I said I wanted more opportunities with the first-team squad, he told me I should go and knock on Jurgen’s door.
“I just didn’t have the bottle to do that as a 19-year-old. I didn’t have the same relationship with Jurgen as I did with Brendan. Looking back, I really regret not doing so.
“I wish I had picked Jurgen’s brains and for him to tell me what I needed to do to get an opportunity. My last year at Liverpool was a difficult time, but I learned a lot from it.”
His time at Liverpool came to an end in the summer of 2017 and he signed for Middlesbrough. He was on the verge of breaking into Boro’s first team under Garry Monk but found himself out of the picture after Tony Pulis took over as manager.
Brewitt left the following summer, but is not bitter about his departure, as he received “valuable advice” from Pulis about his career.
After trials with clubs as diverse as Walsall, Malaga and Kilmarnock, he signed for non-league AFC Fylde, where he was deployed as a defensive midfielder. And he helped them win the 2019 FA Trophy at Wembley, where his grandad, who was celebrating his 89th birthday, was among the crowd.
He then returned to league football with Morecambe under fellow Scouser Jim Bentley.
“I loved it at Morecambe and Jim is one of the nicest people I have met in football,” Brewitt says. “He genuinely cares about every one of his players – on and off the pitch.
“Derek Adams came in and changed things around, but I did play a lot of minutes under him. Problems started when the coronavirus pandemic arrived, which caused clubs like Morecambe to tighten their budgets.
“I hadn’t played a lot towards the end of the 2019-2020 season and Derek told me that the club were not going to take up the option of another year.
“At the time, I felt I was in a strong position as I was available on a free, but I didn’t foresee the damage that the pandemic was going to have on the lower leagues.”
He subsequently faced six months of anxiety, as did numerous players who were out of contract and struggling to find a new team.
It was in September last year that Brewitt received a call from Gary Lewis, who was one of his coaches in the Liverpool academy. Lewis was part of the set up at Seattle Sounders and asked if he fancied moving to America. Brewitt did not hesitate.
The process of obtaining a visa took more time than anticipated and he arrived in Seattle in May.
Brewitt – who is also applying for a United States passport, as his mother is American – is loving life with the USL Championship side Tacoma Defiance, who were rebranded from Seattle Sounders 2 in 2019.
His mother, who is of Italian descent, was born and raised in New York City, and he is currently waiting for his American passport to be processed.
At the end of the storm…
Let’s go Sounders 💚🇺🇸✈️ pic.twitter.com/YhZltUofyM
— Tom Brewitt (@TomBrewitt5) March 16, 2021
“Playing in the USL is hopefully giving me the chance to showcase what I can do and to give me the opportunity to play in MLS,” he says.
“MLS used to be seen as an opportunity for international players towards the end of their careers, but now it is a fantastic career path for younger players building their careers.
“You have 50,000 turning up for games, it is followed all over the world and there are so many high-calibre players over here. Before I came to Seattle, I asked Stevie [Gerrard] about his time with Los Angeles Galaxy and how it compared with England.
“He told me they can’t really be compared because, in the States, the picture is so different. One game you are playing in the heat, and then the next in the snow.
“You’re flying everywhere and playing games every few days. I definitely think it can only benefit me in the long term.
“There have been loads of players who have stepped up from Tacoma to the Sounders and it will also help me when I get my American passport because MLS has a limit on foreign players.”
His short-term goal is to test himself in MLS, while his only regret remains not speaking to Klopp about his future at Liverpool.
“Other than that, I loved every minute of my time at Liverpool and I am loving every minute of my time in Seattle,” Brewitt says.
By Simon Yaffe